The recent news of the Polish Law regarding the “Death Camps” of Holocaust – the Polish Government wants to make the use of the term “Polish Death Camps” a criminal offence while they prefer to term those as “Nazi Extermination camp in pre-occupied Poland”--- has raised points of controversy, mainly on the issue of the ‘freedom of speech’ and about further historical research about the atrocity of Holocaust. I have no personal opinion about this news, even if I have, I am not going to bother my readers with that. This news struck me much as it reminded me of the drama Andhyayug. I watched it a few days back and since then some of the scenes often come to me in my pensive moments to awake me, to sadden me, to question me, to provoke me to write down my feelings. Why would my readers read again the bleak history of Holocaust! I thought. But that news probably gave me a jerk. History is always relevant and there lies the value of the drama ---AndhyaYug, the age of Holocaust, a drama directed by Manish Mitra, presented by Kasba Arghya.
Mechanised movement of a group of labourers, uniformly dressed; ropes are tied at their wrists, waists and legs and a symbol of Swastika at the backdrop makes the very first scene of the drama a meaningful preface to the heinous novel of Holocaust.
A jovial Jewish athlete, an aspiring Olympian became the prey of anti-Semitism. His career, health, love and finally his life were butchered, and he became a symbol of the thousands like him who suffered the terror at Auschwitz Extermination Camp. (To know about the fate of Jew Olympians Agnes Grunwald-Spier ‘s “Who Betrayed the Jew?” (2016) is a relevant text)
Raju Bera as a Jew athlete performed extremely well. The drama dealt with the issue of the persecution of homosexuals by the Nazis and the pain and helplessness of a human being at the death of his homosexual partner / friend became vivid and touchy in the artistic expressions of Raju.
Tapas Chatterjee, a veteran actor of Kasba Arghya whom I know personally as a very down-to-earth, humble, genuine human being--- became totally unknown and ferocious as Dr Mengele. Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his anthropological studies and research on heredity, using inmates for human experimentation.
As a medical officer he
enjoyed dissecting living human bodies, especially innocent children who called
him lovingly ‘Mengele Uncle’, for his experiments. My son (a student of class
6) mistakenly took him to be Hitler as to him the ultimate symbol of all un-animal
-like atrocity is Hitler.
Director Manish Mitra is a master of stage craft. A vibrant stage with meaningful colour, music and symbol is his forte. When we see a Nazi party in Saffron and they say, “Our colour changes with the change of our country: in India we are saffron, in Pakistan we are green- cladded and like that we change our colour but we remain same in our ethos” --- explanation is no more needed here. The director often mixes and matches present with past, local with international to highlight the human predicament under the rule of an autocrat.
Dheeman Bhattacharya, a professor of Comparative Literature and a tremendously talented actor, is a prized possession of this play. His role as Rudolf Höss will surely leave the audience with lot of questions and millions of explanations. Höss experimented with various gassing methods. According to Eichmann's 1961 trial testimony, Höss told him that he used cotton filters soaked in sulfuric acid in early killings. Höss later introduced hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid), produced from the pesticide Zyklon B, to the killing process, for an accelerated killing.
Eccentricity and arrogance of Höss became alive through Dheeman and some of the scenes – intimate posture with a straw-made woman – reminded me of the movie, ‘Psycho’ and I took him (Höss) remarkably as one the “Hollow Men” of T.S.Eliot , ‘Hollow Men’ of “This is the dead land /This is cactus land” finally died with whimpers in reality.
I know I am writing a very depressing article probably, but there is hope. There is Janusz Korczak, a Pediatrician, who knew that death was inevitable for the children of his orphanage and was wise enough to take refuge to Rabindranath for the moral strength of his loved ones. Korczak decided that the children in the orphanage should put on Rabindranath Tagore’s play, The Post Office. Korczak’s selfless dedication was presented through the narratives of Tapas.
Artistic vibrancy of Raju
I think I am unveiling too much of the story of this play. Actually, I am preparing my ground to tell you about the cream scene and the out-standing actor of this drama. Amid this torture, killing and atrocity how did a mother react? She had little food for her children, she knew they will be killed. Then? What did she do? The most experienced actor of the group, respected Sima Ghosh, gave all the answers quietly but strikingly. Tagore was her resort and she suddenly took this play to a level where time and revenge remained a silent audience with remorse and regret.
All the actors played their part perfectly and intelligently, but Simadi did not enact her role, she just presented herself as a genuine mother with her heart and won the heart of the audience who won their tears with her way of transience --- a path which Tagore taught in his play The Post Office (Dakghar). I could not take better pictures of those scenes as my moist eye-lids betrayed me.
Candle light march has become meaningless to me nowadays but when the director lit a candle on the stage after explaining his personal experience of a night at Auschwitz, I felt the positive vibrancy, I knew life-force will always win.
The most enjoyable part of any production of Kasba Arghya is the way they communicate with the audience, it is personal yet professional, intense yet casual. Their dedication to each of their production, the amount of research work they do keep them unique as a Theatre Group.
Kasba Arghya with their director Manish Mitra
I have said something, may be very incoherent, emotion blurs logicality. I call you, my readers to a new travel experience , please be there in their next show and try to feel what I have missed.